Local Moves: The standard local move is charged at an hourly rate from port to port. The bill is generally settled at the end of the job after the movers have unloaded, and before they depart for the return to port. The last portion of travel time is determined by GPS such as Google Maps to see when they will arrive back at port.
Port to Port: Most older & well established moving companies charge from the time that the crew leaves their office to the time they get back to it, and this is known as "port to port" ; and although many (mostly younger) moving companies don't charge port to port, they include that lost time with (typically sneaky) "one time fees" or simply higher hourly rates. Many people making their first move assume that hourly rates don't start until the movers arrive at the house or load the first piece of furniture, and that the clock stops as soon as the last piece is in the new home. Consider the fact that the movers have already been working for quite some time before they arrive at your house. They need to prep the trucks, perform office duties, and load any needed materials all prior to even leaving their port of business. On top of all this, do you also expect them to give their time spent in transit for free? Of course not. Nobody can be expected to spend 10 hours working but only get paid for 8. The company needs to pay its employees for the work that they do, and that is why every one of them either charges port to port or compensates for it with fees or higher rates.
Long Distance: For moves traveling more than 50 miles, laws mandate that moving companies in Virginia charge based on the combined weight of transported goods and the distance those goods are being transported. Weighing is done by putting the entire truck on a large scale before and after your belongings are loaded for transportation, and the first weight of the truck is subtracted from the second weight which leaves only the weight of your items. Although the rates occasionally change every few years, the pricing calculations are fixed and companies don’t have a say in dropping your price below current regulations (this was put in place by authorities to prevent larger companies from forcing out smaller companies via reduced rates for combined [aka shared] loads). Conversely, companies may ADD charges for a greater profit margin, so there is still a reason to shop around for long distance moving. Payment is due upon delivery before the unload is completed and must be cash, certified check, or money order (required as protection for the moving company, as personal checks and credit transactions can be stopped which can become an issue when the customer moved across the country).
Note: While you can certainly have a long distance move estimated, nobody will ever be perfect at determining the exact weight of all your belongings just by looking at them. The actual weight of your goods is what will determine the actual cost.
The average homeowner has a typical amount of household goods, and for that typical amount the job should take approximately 1 hour per room that is being moved (of course this is for local moves only as travel over longer distances will take a longer amount of time). That means if you are moving from a single family home with 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, dining room, and rec room - and you are moving to another single family home within a 30 minute travel time - your move should take just about 6 hours from start to finish. This rough average is in no way guaranteed as every person, and thus every home, has a different amount of belongings.
Stairs: Moving a fourth floor apartment to another fourth floor apartment will require the movers to carry all of your items up and down a total of at least 6 flights of stairs, and obviously this will require more time than moving the same amount of goods from one single family home to another.
Parking: If the moving truck has to park down the street in a busy city due to restrictions, it will take much more time to take your belongings from the elevator, through the car park, down the street and finally on to the truck.
Elevators: Even if your highrise elevator is very fast, each trip up or down will still take time. Factor in the time to load and unload the elevator. If each trip takes a total of 2 minutes, and 20 trips are required to get all of the belongings to where they're going, that's already an extra 40 minutes. And that is under the assumption that the elevator is reserved for the movers. If they have to battle the other residents for the elevator, time is wasted waiting.
Disassembly & Reassembly: Typically this isn't a major issue and doesn't take much time. However some items are more complicated than others when it comes to their construction, requiring more time and expertise to move.
Specialized Items: Pianos, Pool Tables, Fire or Gun Safes, Hot Tubs, Large Artwork or Sculptures, etc. require special handling or equipment in order to move safely. Ask your mover about charges for special items. An in-home estimate will ensure that neither you nor the movers will be surprised with special items or extra costs.
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